GREENHEAD Park has figured now in the lives of four generations of my family.
My parents, being Bradford folk, could not legitimately claim the park as home ground.
But they rented a house behind the sadly defunct Junction Inn just yards from the park’s top ‘gates’ when I was about five and we lived in Gledholt Road for about four years.
There weren’t any gates, though: I understood they’d been melted down with all the railings to make tanks or battleships.
The park quickly became our garden, and we’d stroll in it every weekend as if we owned it.
I believe that when my brother Anthony was born we wheeled him up and down the park in a Swan pram done out in racing green with something of a sweeping go-faster stripe down the side.
I used to play from dawn until dusk in the park during the holidays.
“Mind the dirty old men,” Mum used to say. “Stay out of the bushes.”
Red rag to a bull, that. Dirty old men or not, I had half a dozen ‘dens’ in the sprawling rhododendrons, each with a high ‘lookout’ branch and a corner where you could consume a small picnic of Spillers Shapes. Friends by invitation only.
I seemed to be alone in liking dog biscuits, though. Ah, well, more for me, then.
When my children were young we’d wheel them round the park occasionally in the family tradition, sticking them on the swings and letting them paddle in the rather grubby pool at the bottom end.
We lived away in Mirfield, so visits were infrequent.
I presume I told them how in winter I’d sledge down the hill towards the Open Air Theatre or try to turn the paths into glassy ice by repeatedly skidding on them.
I very probably told them how I’d squeeze through the holes in the terrace walls or sit in the fountain that they re-sited from Market Square in the town centre many years before I was born.
The conservatory was my jungle, and wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d been dive-bombed by exotic parrots or heard the distant throaty rumble of a panther.
The War Memorial was my fort and the low walls of the bowling green my runway and racing track.
It’s likely I also told them how much smaller the park was than when I were a lad.
Because that was what I was telling the grandchildren the weekend they officially reopened the park.
It was an opportunity to rejoice in the child within, basically by indulging the child without, namely, the grandchildren.
“We didn’t have this little steam train when I was young,” I told Harry and Charlie. “Let’s go for a ride on it. Go on, go on. Please.”
The kids reluctantly agreed.
We wouldn’t normally have ice creams. They’re for kids, right?
But you have to show willing. The only thing I won’t do is daub it round my mouth and down my T-shirt, then drop half of it in the grass.
I leave that to the three-year-olds. I feel that sort of behaviour is unbecoming in a grandparent and senior journalist on a respectable newspaper. Besides, somebody with a camera might be watching.
They had water-guns and zorb balls at the paddling pool, which again was much smaller than I remembered it.
Grandson unable to exert the amount of pressure required to fill the gun.
Thinks: daughter none too keen on introducing grandson to concept of ballistic weapons, even if the projectile might be a jet of water.
Thinks again: water-gun as far removed from weaponry as pair of rubber scissors is from guillotine.
Grandson interrupts train of thought: please, Grandpa, fill the water-gun. I want to squirt everybody.
This is grandson’s objective, but unfortunately his firing arm produces an aimless and disappointing dribble from the device.
Grandpa has to demonstrate how to hit a moving zorb ball at 20 paces and terrify whole poolside families with one of those sweeping firing arcs you see on bad action movies.
Experiment ends with approach of park warden.
Can you have ‘third’ childhoods?